First introduced in vaudeville by Healy and Cross, the novelty song Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William Now) became a vocal hit in 1924 for Margaret Young, accompanied by Rube Bloom.
The song has also been recorded by the Don Clark Orchestra, Ernest Hare, Billy Murray, Clementine Smith, Emmett Miller, Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra, Peggy Lee, Merle Haggard, Ry Cooder, Leon Redbone, Van Halen (sung by David Lee Roth, with Eddie Van Halen’s father playing clarinet), and is a popular song choice for barbershop quartet and chorus competitions.
The lyrics describe a man living in Louisville (presumably Kentucky), who was once a fearsome and rough character known for getting into fights, who, after getting married, becomes a peaceable person who devotes his time to domestic activities such as washing dishes and mopping the floor.
This arrangement from the 1924 sheet music includes a verse seldom heard in recordings, as well as historical information.
Key: F major
Mood: fun, humorous
Pedagogy: hand position changes, syncopation, ragtime patterns, repeats, D.S., “vamp” opening